Pretty Fly for a Fungi: Why You Want Mushrooms in Your Skincare Products

The lowdown on mushroom benefits, plus some recs because I love you.

Seek me out in a bookstore and you'll find me on one of three places: biographies, travel or field guides. And if there's one type of field guide I can't resist reaching for, in particular, it has to be a guide on mushrooms. Forget about fiction; I've got fungi to sate me!

But seriously, one of my fondest memories growing up is going mushroom hunting with my dad and aunts. We kids would tag along, mesh mushroom bags dragging behind us, and hit all the familiar places that promised a bounty of edible fungi. Sometimes I'd go with just my sister and cousin, pushing our way through briars, stopping to snack on wild mulberries and blackberries, searching for all sorts of species.

Before you settle into a fit of panic, know that my parents had one rule: don't eat anything. Like adults do with Halloween candy, they'd go through our collection after our hunts to determine if there were any counterfeit morels or potentially poisonous finds in our bags. But usually we just admired wildlife while playing and saved the serious search expeditions for when adults were around to guide us.

Mushrooms as a Skincare Ingredient

In any case, mushrooms aren't just cool to look at and delicious to eat. Historically, dried mushrooms and mushroom extract have served as a key ingredient in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. There's even been an uptick in mushrooms as a key ingredient in skincare products just over the last couple of years.

"Mushrooms are incredibly healthy to eat and when used as an ingredient in topical skincare products," says Dr. Gary Goldfaden, the dermatologist behind Goldfaden MD. "They contain high antioxidant levels, vitamin D, phenol, lipids and amino acids, and are therefore powerful against free-radical damage and inflammation."

As you'd expect, each mushroom has its own unique set of benefits. Just a few examples:

  • King Trumpet: This type is most beneficial for collagen, the protein that keeps our skin supple and taut. "Containing master antioxidants L-ergothioneine, and glutathione peroxidase, King Trumpet acts as a cell-protectant and activates other antioxidant activity, including vitamin absorption — particularly vitamins E and C, both of which are known to be beneficial to the skin," says Sandra Carter, MPH, Ph.D., founder of Mushroom Matrix.
  • Reishi: This beast of a mushroom addresses anti-aging. "It's known for cellular renewal, containing beta1 and 3-D glucan, which can support the immune system," says Dr. Carter. It has also been shown to increase skin hydration, reduce lines and wrinkles, and increase skin elasticity. Damn.
  • Antrodia: This weird-looking mushroom promotes even skin tone.
  • Maitake: Dr. Carter says this one is "helpful for dry skin due to its observed ability to significantly increase collagen biosynthesis and augment sebum accumulation in sebaceous glands."
  • Agaricus Blazei: This variety is useful in treating skin allergy and sensitivity issues.
  • Cordyceps: Another very bizarre-looking mushroom, this one refines pores and increases adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. This production, in turn, "increases a cell’s ability to produce more energy, resulting in that cellstaking in more nutrients and replacing damaged components," explains Dr. Carter.

Mushroom-Infused Products

This wouldn't be a proper xoVain party without a few recommendations!

Above is MISSHA's Misa Geum Sul Vitalizing Eye Cream ($45 at SokoGlam), a potent blend of some rather unusual ingredients. It contains 25% of wild ginseng, deer antlers and Reishi mushrooms extracted and fermented by gold.

It's housed in a gorgeous, gilded pot, which only adds to its luxuriousness. The cream itself is thick and silky and hydrates like a BA. It's an eye cream, but I've also applied a thin layer to my entire face.

Again, this product, by emerginC Scientific Organics, contains some interesting ingredients: papaya, blue poppy seeds, raspberry extract, mushroom extracts and potent antioxidants. It doubles down by serving as both a physical and enzymatic exfoliant, and should only be used one to three times a week.

That said, it's very gentle on the skin. And I love the blue poppy seeds as an exfoliant. See ya, microbeads!

Another Korean beauty product! I've been a serious K-kick over the last year and have featured this product once before on xoVain. It's a pretty bizarre texture, and after using it for quite some time, I'd call it the perfect marriage between an oil, cream and serum.

It contains Chaga mushroom extract and is blended with fermented olive oil and fermented argan oil. Despite all the oil, it feels light on the skin.

Above are Renee Rouleau's AHA/BHA Cleansing Gel and BHA Clarifying Serum. The former is ideal for blemish-prone skin and contains ActiSoothe, a mushroom extract that helps calm and brighten the skin. It cleanses efficiently and doesn't leave the skin feeling dehydrated like some acne cleansers can.

The serum is also made for sensitive, acne-prone skin. It contains time-released lactic, glycolic and salicylic acids to swifty unclog pores, even out your complexion and give acne-causing bacteria the boot. Additionally, it contains Silver Ear mushroom to help hydrate the skin and protect it from future breakouts.

  • What's your take on mushrooms in skincare?
  • Are you as fascinated with fungi as I am?